Sunday, December 14, 2014

Price Matching Is The Bane of Customer Service (As It Stands)

While I do believe it is in every companies' best interest to offer their customers the best possible price, competitor price matching is a terrible idea.

Most places these days have a list of competitors they will and won't match prices with, though this list is generally an open secret, hidden from customer and employees unless they ask during specific instances. Some places don't even require customers to bring in competitor's advertisements, requiring bottom-level employees to either make a snap judgment, memorize everybody's specials on a weekly basis, be self-responsible for acquiring local competitors' fliers, or force customers to wait for management approval.

On top of it all, most retail companies limit how much of a price override a lowly sales person can perform without management approval. During the holidays, when customer frustration is at its highest, competitive prices are at their most frequent, and management personnel are at their least availability, this is a recipe for customer dissatisfaction.

If retail locations were serious about competitor price matching, they would have a tiny department of one or two people who are primarily responsible for collecting and pilfering fliers, and pre-programming their systems to adjust upcoming price differences.

Remember, all large retail stores run on computers these days. It's no big chore to access the system and manually override the price (provided they are given the authority to do so) to match any given price.
Obviously, lengths would have to be taken to prevent the approved associates from abusing the system, and these could include the following:
  • Denying or reducing employee discount on said items;
  • Disallowing employee purchases on said items altogether;
  • Upper management keeping a close eye and approving all overrides and employee purchases of said items.
Of these, the last and any options similar to the last is detrimental to the system. The purpose of the department is to reduce upper management oversight in minor customer service interactions, and this only changes the chain of command. The other two, and derivatives thereof, would lead to increased employee dissatisfaction, but when considering the decrease in customer dissatisfaction, this is negligible.

Most retail employees, when asked, would rather be limited in what they can purchase from their own store than be faced with regular upset customers taking their dissatisfaction out on peons who are both not responsible for it and with the least capability to do anything about it.